Sunday, July 16, 2017

0061. The Hare in the Moon

From Indian Fables and Folklore by Shovona Devi, online at: Hathi Trust.

Notes. This is a folktale about an animal trickster who invokes the "Hare in the Moon" as part of his trick. There is a different story from India about the hare in the moon, a Buddhist jataka story that tells how there came to be a hare in the moon. For another story about a rabbit who tricks a larger and more powerful animal, see The Hare and the Lion. For more about "lunar pareidolia" (i.e. the "man in the moon," "the rabbit in the moon," etc.), see Wikipedia. You will recognize the "Karna" ("ear") part of the hare's name in this story as in the name Karna, a hero of the Mahabharata, and also in the name Kumbhakarna, Ravana's brother in the Ramayana. This story comes from the Panchatantra tradition, and the illustration below is from a Syrian edition of the Panchatantra-based Kalila-wa-Dimna, circa 1354.

Summary: A quick-witted little hare invents a trick to drive the elephants away from the pond where the hares live.

Read the story below:


You must have noticed in the round of the full moon something like a little animal with two long ears erect. That is what the Hindus call the Hare in the Moon.

A herd of elephants once took up their quarters by a lake near which dwelt a colony of hares, and many of these little creatures were crushed to death under their feet. The survivors, loath to depart from their ancient home, were in great despair.

One saucy little hare, however, volunteered to drive the intruders away. He waited for an opportunity, and when he saw the leader of the herd, a fine big four-tusker, disporting himself in the lake, he coolly walked up and thus addressed him: “O Chatur-danta (Four-Tusked One), how dare you stir up and muddy the waters of this sacred Lake of the Moon? I am Lamba-Karna (Long-Eared One), the Hare in the Moon, come down to warn you of the consequences of this impiety.”

The full Moon had just disclosed itself, and its image was seen quivering in the agitated waters.

“Do you not see the Moon herself, down by your wicked feet!” continued Lamba-Karna, nothing daunted. “Beware of her resentment!”

Chatur-Danta, the four-tusked rogue, scarce troubled even to glance at the hare, and went on gamboling in the water.

“What! Still bent on troubling her sacred waters?” said the hare again. “Tarry no more, for if once your leg is in her grip she will give you cause to rue it!”

The elephant at last grew alarmed. He looked down at his feet, and indeed the Moon was there already, not one alone, but multiplied a hundred-fold! He jumped back in fright half-a-dozen yards, but the Moon still followed him as if to catch him by the leg.

“Alas for my folly! There's the Moon!” cried the elephant, and then turned up his trunk and stampeded, followed by the whole herd.

The hares were no longer molested and lived in peace ever after.

Before the hare the tusker quails: No need for Strength when Wit prevails.

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